It is important that all workplaces have an effective method of reporting accidents for a number of reasons – severe accidents will need to be reported by law to the relevant agency such as OSHA; accident reports are usually a key fact in Insurance claims and insurance matters; but most of all to help prevent future accidents by understanding what are the primary drivers of accidents at your workplace and the nature/severity of the accidents you experience.
It is important that all accidents are reported and recorded not just the most severe accidents – all the research done over the years shows us that the accidents with major injuries were usually predictable if we look at the less serious injuries caused by similar factors – near misses and minor injuries probably account for over 80-90% of all accidents, accidents requiring basic first aid another 8-9%; the more severe accidents where people take time off or are badly injured account for around 1-3% of all accidents – thus if we wait for that tiny percentage to happen we’ll never succeed in reducing accidents at work.
The subject of accident reporting is quite complex and has many factors; but key reasons for not reporting accidents are:
- The form takes forever to complete
- “I don’t want to get into trouble for reporting things”
- “There’s no point; no one ever does anything about them”
- “I have no idea where the forms are”
- “It was only a scratch. I’m not filling a form in for that”
Simplified Forms & Reporting Systems
Employees and Managers should be able to report most accidents in a matter of minutes – any form that takes more than this to complete is far too complex and will unintentionally discourage reporting.
Equally it’s easy to get obsessed with forms – but as more workplaces give access to employees for computers, a simple dynamic form that allows for simpler reporting of minor incidents such as near misses or dangerous conditions, and a growing form for a minor injury, and a larger online form for more severe injuries. These allow employees wishing to report simple incidents to do so in a matter of minutes, and also for data collection to be tracked digitally to build a better system of analysis.
Understanding Why and Encouraging
If employees think the forms go in a big pile, that its simply about statistics, that issues aren’t fixed they will not report accidents; equally they will not report minor incidents because they don’t always realize that information can save a bigger accident down the line.
So it’s important that in safety orientations the need to report accidents is stressed, that accident reports are acted upon if solutions are possible -if there isn’t a solution today at least make sure people know you’re thinking about it and obviously that accident reports don’t lead to reprimands as a matter of course.
Helping the staff see that reporting low consequence accidents today can save their colleague pain down the line is often enough on its own to help encourage reporting.
Life changes quickly; 20 years ago this was all about having forms on the wall or on the desk – now it’s often about finding them quickly on the Intranet.
Recognize how and where your staff work – find a solution that suits – web based answers are perfect for office staff – yet old fashioned paper is probably required in a workshop where they can be grabbed quickly.
But make them simple to find ideally visible to everyone all the time.
If you’re opting for an online form, make sure it is accessible to everyone! The more peope that can fill out reports, the better chance for more reports.
Understand the Information
Employers need to be careful they understand the reports – not just in terms of what they can physically improve but also what the information tells you in terms of patterns. Accident statistics have a very poor reputation for the simple reason they avoid every statistical technique known – raw numbers shouldn’t be discounted but make sure you understand what it tells you.
Always review your risk assessments – was the accident in question accepted as a potential risk, are the controls in the risk assessment actually in place, is the risk assessment actually workable – or is the risk assessment idealistic and unworkable – and indeed do we need to review the risk assessment.
To work out how effective your accident reporting is there’s some simple questions to which the correct answer better be obvious:
- Do you have at least 8 times the number of near misses and minor cuts etc as accidents requiring first aid?
- Do you have at least 8 times as many first aid and low consequence accidents reported compared to accidents that break bones or require staff to have time off work?
- Does the form take more than 2 minutes to complete for a simple accident?
- Has any accident report led to a change in the workplace?